I went to visit my grandma at her care home early that morning. She's been incapacitated by emotional problems for about the last half decade, but in just the past month she's sadly begun deteriorating physically at a very fast pace. I only stayed for a minute or two. The one thing we agreed on was that neither of us really knew what to say––so I just hugged her and told her I loved her. I hadn't expected it to be hard. She'd been so absent the last quarter of my life that I'd only even seen her a handful of times, but somehow in that minute I remembered how much I really do love her and what a wonderful, caring part of my earlier childhood she was. Turning to walk out, it was all I could do to make it the twenty-odd feet through the hallway and past the receptionist before I felt tears welling in my eyes.
Sadness is okay, and I wish I could say that it stopped at that. Over the past week, though, I've been anxious about a number of things I won't burden you with, and as the day wore on––my legitimate grief over my grandma as an excuse––I spent it wallowing in the same thoughts and emotions that I know have held her in a prison in her mind all these years.
I woke up this morning feeling horrible. All the things troubling me were still the same, and instead of responding to them gracefully, I completely blew it.
It had rained all night and carried on into the morning and sitting down next to an open window in my living room I could almost feel it falling just a few inches from me. There was some alternative rock song looping in my head from the night and––more to try to break the cycle than for any other reason, I started trying to recall the lyrics to songs that I'd heard often in the past but had gone out of style lately. For some reason, the late 90s Stuart Townend song "Beautiful Savior" came into my mind. And right then, I strangely felt like I was in another place altogether. It was just a memory, but the memory was so strong it felt real.
I was my twelve-year-old self sitting on the carpeted floor in someone else' living room with all the windows open. Maybe it was raining outside––or it could've just been the noise of a fan. It was at a gathering of people my parents were attempting to plant a church with––but it was early and disorganized enough that the meetings were more like "let's all hang out for five hours some afternoon and maybe we'll have a brief time of worship at some point in there." So I'd just come in from playing some game outside with my friends for hours and felt hot and sweaty and strangely content to sit still on the floor of a crowded room in the cool late afternoon breeze from the open windows. On a high-end electric keyboard, my uncle played "Beautiful Savior" with the energy of a concert pianist playing some piece by Chopin in a packed out hall. Everyone sang out passionately with no real need to look at the song sheets that someone had passed out since it was one of only six or seven songs we ever sang, so everyone knew it by heart. And the room had some calm but powerful energy about it that was more than just my pre-teen body buzzing from three hours of running around in the woods. It was there before the singing began, and then slowly built through the first and second verses and chorus till the third and final verse when I exchanged conspiratorially glances with all the other kids in the room right before the climax on the word "worthy"––which it was understood we'd shout out with enough volume to raise the drop-cieling tiles. That shout used the energy, but it didn't expend it.
That was the memory. But the strange thing is, it was all positive and calm and beautiful. I'm pretty sure that's how I experienced it when it happened, but I've become so used to looking back on that group, those meetings and that whole time in my life with nothing but cynicism and disappointment that it felt alien and unexpected to remember the emotions that I actually felt back then.
Yes, even on that afternoon as I sat there and sang that song, there were problems brewing. Yes, it did ultimately end in a sort of disaster. Multiple disasters, actually. Yes, some people in that room would eventually publicly disavow the things they spent years teaching me to believe. Yes, some of them, intentionally or not, would eventually hurt me. Regardless of those facts, though, it was, at that moment, a beautiful time in my life. And sitting watching the rain this morning in my big empty house and feeling the lowest I have in awhile, that was for some reason how I remembered it.
And somehow, distant and fleeting as it is, I feel some hope in that. Whether it's my grandma's situation, my church experience growing up, my own inadequate attempts at living a worthy life with what I've been given, and many other things that seem to be turning out poorly; there have still been moments of happiness and beauty interspersed throughout all of them. More than that, I still trust––however irrational it may seem––in the Beautiful Savior, wonderful Counselor and Lord of history Townend wrote about in the song I sang in that breezy room 12 years ago and that He is somehow working all these things together to some unforeseeable end in which the good from all of them was really their purpose and will be their ultimate end.